Jeita Grotto

Infobox Cave
name = Jeita Grotto
photo = Jeitag2.jpg
caption = Upper cave at Jeita with the walkway
location = Jeita, Lebanon
depth =
length = convert|9|km|mi|0|lk=on
coordinates = coord|33|56|36.20|N|35|38|28.89|E|type:cave
survey =
survey_electronic_format =
discovery = 1836
geology = Karstic
number of entrances = 2
difficulty = none
hazards =
access = [ Jeita Grotto official website]
translation = roar or noise (water)cite web|url= |title=LEBANESE MARONITE VILLAGES OR TOWNS|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-12] cite web | last =
first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title =Qada' (caza) Keserwan | work = Kesserwan brochure | publisher = Lebanese Ministry of Tourism | date = | url = | format =.pdf | doi = | accessdate =2008-06-13
language = Aramaic
pronunciation =

The Jeita Grotto ( _ar. مغارة جعيتا) is a compound of interconnected karstic limestone caves in Lebanon located convert|20|km|mi north of Beirut in the Valley of Nahr al-Kalb (Dog River). This grotto complex is made up of two caves, upper galleries and a lower cave through which an underground river runs. The lower cave was rediscovered in 1836 by Reverend William Thomson, the upper gallery was discovered in 1958 by Lebanese speleologists.

The upper gallery has been designed to include a series of walkways without disturbing the natural landscape. [cite web|url=|title=Jeita Grotto|publisher=archnet|accessdate=2007-07-31] The Jeita Grotto which is run by the German, Beirut based private firm MAPAS is a candidate in the New 7 Wonders of Nature competition. [cite web|url=|title=new7wonders |publisher=|accessdate=2007-07-31]


The Jeita caves have been inhabited since prehistoric times. Ancient vestiges of a foundry were found in a one smaller cave nearby the Nahr al-Kalb river which suggests that this cave was used in prehistory to produce swords.

The modern discovery of the underground river of Jeita in 1836 is credited to Reverend William Thomson (an American missionary) who ventured some convert|50|m|ft into the cave. Reaching the underground river, he fired a shot from his gun and the resulting echoes convinced him that he had found a cavern of major importance.
In 1873 W.J. Maxwell and H.G. Huxley, engineers with the Beirut Water Company, and their friend Reverend Daniel Bliss, president of the Syrian Protestant College (later the American University of Beirut) explored these caverns. In two expeditions carried out in 1873 and 1874 they penetrated convert|1060|m|ft into the grotto which is the principal source of the Nahr el-Kalb that supplies Beirut with water. They were impeded by "Hell's Rapids" torrents which break onto razor sharp rocks.Dr. Bliss, Mr. Maxwell and the other engineers recorded their names and the year on "Maxwell's Column", a great limestone pillar some convert|625|m|ft from the entrance.About convert|200|m|ft further on, in the so-called "Pantheon", they wrote their names and details of the expedition on paper, sealed it in a bottle and placed it on top of a stalagmite. The lime-impregnated water has since covered the bottle with a thin white film, permanently fixing it to the stone.
Between 1892 and 1940 further expeditions were carried out by English, American and French explorers. Their expeditions brought them to a depth of convert|1750|m|ft.
Since the 1940s, Lebanese explorers, notably the members of the Speleo-Club of Lebanon (Lebanese Caving Club) founded in 1951 by the first Lebanese speleologist Lionel Ghorra,cite web |url=|title=Spéléo Club du Liban - History|publisher=SPL|accessdate=2008-06-11] have pushed even deeper into the Jeita grotto. Their expeditions revealed a great underground system which is now known to an overall length of nearly convert|9|km|mi.citation |url=|title=Jeita Grotto awes even the most skeptical of visitors|last = Short| first = Ramsay |newspaper =Daily Star | year = 2003 | date = 2003-05-24|accessdate=2008-06-10] cite news | last = Larwood | first = Elaine | coauthors = Hassan Salamé - Sarkis|url=| title = JEITA REDISCOVERED |publisher= Lebanese Ministry of Tourism |accessdate=2008-06-15]

In 1958 the lower caverns were opened to the public, meanwhile exploration was still underway mainly by the Lebanese Caving Club which led to the discovery of the elevated dry branch of the grotto later referred to as the upper galleries.

In 1962, the Spéléo Club contributed to a study of the upper galleries aiming to provide a tunnel course which was to be dug for touristic development purposes; this tunnel was begun in 1968.

In 1969, a concert with electronic music by the French composer Francois Bayle was held in the cave to celebrate the inauguration of the upper galleries. This event was organized by the Lebanese artist and sculptor Ghassan Klink.cite web |url=|title=Jeita Cave “Lebanon”|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-11] Other cultural events have taken place in this unusual surrounding, including a concert by the world acknowledged German composer Karlheinz Stockhausen in November 1969.cite video | people =Anne-Marie Deshayes | title = Stockhausen in den Höhlen von Jeita (Stockhausen in the caves of Jeita) | medium = DVD | publisher = MIDEM | location = Jeita, Lebanon | year2 = 1969]

The caverns closed to the public due the the Lebanese civil war in 1978cite web |url=|title=Magharet Jeita| last =Duckeck| first = Jochen| date = 6 January 2008 |publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-11] bothtunnels leading to the lower and upper galleries were used to store munitions, the outside buildings for military purposes.cite paper | first = Nader | last = Fadi H. | author = Nader, Fadi H. | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = THE JEITA CAVE RESOURCE DEVELOPMENT – LEBANON: IMPACTS AND ASSESSMENT | version = | publisher = Trans-KARST 2004 | year = 2004 | url = | format =.pdf | accessdate =2008-06-12 ] The caves reopened in 1995 and remain one of the country’s key natural attractions.cite web |url=|title=Jeita Grotto|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-10]

Today, the Jeita Grotto is a popular tourist attraction and an important employer, providing a full time job for around 115 local residents (where 30% of personnel are female).


The Jeita grotto is entirely located within the Lower-Middle Jurassic strata of Keserouane which has a stratigraphic thickness of convert|1000|m|ft and consists of dolostone and micritic limestone.cite web |url= |title=STRATIGRAPHY OF LEBANON |accessdate=2008-06-16 |format= |work=] During the Late Jurassic-Early Cretaceous, a local uplift occurred in Lebanon which resulted in aerially exposing the Keserouane Formation. This led to an initial karstification affecting the Kesrouane strata before burial in the Cetaceous times. In the Neogene, upon the final uplift of Mount Lebanon, this early karstification phase was reactivated.
At the Nahr el Kalb valley, the impervious Upper Jurassic volcanic rocks and Lower Cretaceous sand slant almost vertically forming a hydrogeological barrier and forcing the outlet of the Jeita underground river to the surface. This barrier could be the reason for the westernmost, large cave chambers with heights exceeding convert|60|m|ft. The annual precipitation over Lebanon (more than 1200mm) and the steep topography of the area have intensified the observed karstification.cite paper | first = El Nawwar | last = Sandrine | author = El Nawwar, Sandrine | authorlink = | coauthors = Nader, Fadi | title = THE JEITA CAVE (LEBANON): AN EXAMPLE OF SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT OF A TYPICAL KARSTIC RESOURCE | version = | publisher = IKS | date = | url = | format =.pdf | accessdate =2008-06-12 ]

A ratio of total slope gradient of 1/100 is calculated between the entrance of the cave and its inland extremity. This shows its smooth flat course even though it is sometimes interrupted by several small cascades and rapids. From the west, the Jeita cave starts with large halls and meanders. Through some rapids, the dimension becomes narrower. Going forth, it is spacious with the Thompson’s cavern (convert|250|m|ft long and convert|60|m|ft wide), Grand Chaos convert|500|m|ft long) and Mroueh’s Hall (convert|200|m|ft long and convert|50|m|ft wide). The latter two are floored with collapsed blocks. The cave ends with a Y-shaped pattern, where, each branch ends with a siphon.


The Jeita caves are solutional karst caves which have formed over millions of years due to the dissolution of limestone. The limestone is dissolved by carbonic acid charged rain water and groundwater;cite web |url=|title=Journey into amazing caves|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-10] when the limestone, which is originally water proof, contains cracks produced by tectonic forces the water oozes into the rock and starts to widen the cracks and solute caves inside the layers.cite web |url=|title=Karst caves| last =Duckeck| first = Jochen| date = 6 January 2008|accessdate=2008-06-11] Jeita is the longest cave complex in the Middle East;citation |url= |last = Krieger | first = Kimberly |title=Lebanon's limestone: Where the mountains meet the sea |publisher= Geotimes|accessdate=2008-06-10] , it sits at convert|300|m|ft above sea level and has a height difference of convert|305|m|ft. Geologically, the caves provide a tunnel or escape route for the underground river, which is the principal source of the Dog River.

The Jeita grotto is the longest explored cave in Lebanon.cite paper | first = | last = | author = |authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Lebanon Sate of the Environment Report| version = | publisher = Lebanese Ministry of Environment| date = | url =| format =.pdf | accessdate =2008-06-14 ] After many years of exploration, speleologists have penetrated about convert|6910|m|ft from the entry point of the lower grotto to the far end of the underground river and about convert|2130|m|ft of the upper galleries.cite web |url=|title=Jeita Grotto - Lebanon|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-10]

Upper cave

The Jeita upper cave has an overall length of convert|2130|m|ft of which only convert|750|m|ft are accessible to visitors via a specially conceived walkway; access to the remainder of the cave was restricted to prevent ecological damage which may occur due to the flocking tourists. The upper cave contains a great concentration of a variety of crystallized formations such as stalactites, stalagmites, columns, mushrooms, ponds, curtains and draperies.cite web|url=|title=Jeita Grotto|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-10] The upper gallery is famous for its formations, lit by an effective lighting system. It is entered through a convert|117|m|ft long concrete tunnel. The part accessible by visitors has three huge chambers. The first is called White Chamber, the second Red Chamber, due to the color of the formations.White dripstones are pure calcite without defilement, the red color is given by iron oxide (rust) in small amounts. In Lebanon iron oxide has a red color instead of the brown beige color which is common in northern countries. The reason is a different chemical reaction caused by the high temperature which produces a different kind of iron oxide.The White Chamber is medium sized, but has the most impressive formations of the cave. The Red Chamber is up to convert|106|m|ft high, and convert|30|m|ft to convert|50|m|ft wide. The third chamber is the biggest of all three chambers and has a height of more than convert|120|m|ft. The longest stalactite in the world is located in Jeita's White Chamber; it measures convert|8.2|m|ft long.cite web |url=|title=Caves With The Longest Stalactite| last =Duckeck| first = Jochen| date = 6 January 2008 |publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-11] Cite web|url=|title=Lebanon's Jeita Grotto|accessdate=2008-07-17|year=2008|author=Cedric Canierro|format=.HTML|language=English]

Lower cave

The lower gallery is located convert|60|m|ft below the upper gallery, it is traversed by a smooth underwater river and a lake {the "Dark Lake"). The river is broken up by several small cataracts and rapids. The lower cave's "Thompson's Cavern", is a massive hall with impressive speleothems such as the Eagle Obelisk stalagmite. Other halls in the lower gallery include the Pantheon, Grand Chaos and Shangri-la.cite web | last = Karanouh
first = Rena | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Jiita | work =Caves of Lebanon | publisher = Speleo Club du Liban | date = | url = | format =.html | doi = | accessdate =2008-06-13
] Visitors are transported in the lower gallery by electric boats for a distance of convert|500|m|ft. In winter the lower level is closed, when the water level is too high.


In 2002, then French President Jacques Chirac, the United Nations World Tourism Organization and the World Bank accorded the top Sustainable Development in Tourism prize to MAPAS (the company that manages the site) at a summit dubbed “New Ties between Tourism and Culture” in Geneva.

In December 2003, on behalf of the Beirut-based private company MAPAS, Jeita received a prestigious award from the fifth Tourism Summits in Chamonix, France. "Les Sommets du Tourisme" recognized MAPAS’ efforts in restoring Lebanon’s important touristic sites.

The Jeita Grotto is a candidate for the New 7 Nature Wonders of Nature competition.cite news | last = Heyer | first = Hazel | coauthors = | title = Lebanon in a race to be a world 'wonder' | work = ETurboNews| pages = |language= english |publisher = ETN | date = 2008-06-09 | url = | accessdate = 2008-06-10] cite journal| last = | first = | authorlink = | coauthors = | title = Jeita Grotto Vying to Make 'New 7 Wonders of Nature' List| journal = Annahar | volume = | issue = | pages = | publisher = | location = beirut | date = 2008-06-09 | url = | doi = | id = | accessdate = 2008-06-12] cite video|url=| people = | title = Lebanon Caves a New Wonder? | medium = National Geographic News| publisher = National Geographic | location = United States | year2 =2008 ]

Other names

The Jeita Grottoes underwent many name changes, from the Grottoes of Nahr el Kalb, Djaita, Jehita, and finally Jeita. The name change from caves or Grottoes of Nahr el Kalb to Jeita Grottoes happened in 1927 when newspapers widely used the name "Jeita Grottoes". Naher el Kalb is the name of the river that runs through Jeita Grottoes but the entrance to the cave is located in the town of Jeita which means "roaring water" in Aramaic.

Numismatics and philately

In 1961, Jeita became a national symbol when Lebanese authorities issued a stamp featuring the lower cavern, to help promote tourism in the country . The oarsman shown on the stamp is Mr. Maroun Hajj who still leads boats tours till date.cite journal | last = Thomas | first = Lera | authorlink = Lera Thomas| coauthors = | title = Cave Exploring | journal = Topical Time | volume = 52 | issue = 1 | pages = 22–24 | publisher = | location = | date = January/February 2001 | url = | doi = | id = ] The Jeita grotto also figure on the 1964 one Lira's (lebanese pound) verso.cite web|url=|title=Lebanese Banknotes -ONE LEBANESE POUND|publisher=|accessdate=2008-06-12]


External links

* [ Jeitta Grotto website]

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